I recently saw a meme on Facebook showing a bunch of shocked-looking women, with the caption “When people are talking about caring for the elderly and you realize YOU are the elderly.” I posted a small picture of a lady vigorously shaking her head in the negative.

The idea that I have become elderly is incongruous to me. I was usually the youngest person at the table in my career days.  I am used to be thought of as the young’un. While never being what you would call pretty, I believe I have always looked younger than my actual age. I am certainly young at heart. I think I am so young at heart that I make some people uncomfortable. After all, wearing a Tinker Bell wardrobe worthy of a four-year-old girl and sleeping with one of dozens of stuffed animals (in a rotation so as not to hurt any of their feelings) is a bit weird for a 63-year-old woman. Sometimes, I think  the way I talk and express myself in my more whimsical visits with my inner child makes people wonder if I am serious or developmentally delayed. All in all, I do not feel old.

I have had this conversation with many friends in the years since my retirement. None of us feel elderly. We feel the same way we have always felt. We enjoy the same things we have always enjoyed.  Our sense of style and taste is the same as it always was. We plan and schedule as we did during our younger career days.

It is always disconcerting, as we live our non-elderly visions of ourselves, when something happens to contradict that non-elderly vision. I’ll pack my days with activities and am nonplussed when I realize that I am totally exhausted after a week or so without “do nothing” time. When I was working, I would typically work ten hours a day, commute three hours a day, manage my life, and fit in personal relationships. Sleep was the first casualty of that pace, but I am proud of the rich life I was able to create. I  almost never had ”do nothing” time. I wouldn’t even have wanted “do nothing” time.

Today, I’ll get a pedicure at a local nail salon and find that there are sharp, needle-like pains in my feet that I never noticed in my younger days. A friend of mine lumbered cheerfully into his car to embark on a lengthy road trip, as he has for years. A couple of days later, he realized he needed to turn around and come home because the pesky pain in his back was throwing a temper tantrum about the number of hours seated behind the steering wheel. Other friends who have been treating various physical ailments for years are finding that the medications that used to manage their conditions so that they continued to live life as they wished without impediment no longer do the trick. They are having to curtail their activities or do them in different ways to accommodate their medical conditions. One friend of mine swears that he was just fine, with no issues or age-related problems until age 75. Then, the changes started storming down on him like the flood was coming.

As to me, I can’t imagine what 75+ will be like because I have been feeling the decline since about age 60. It is a humbling process. Not only are the actual age-related changes demoralizing in themselves, but the fact that they seem to come out of nowhere makes the whole situation worse. Every time I have an experience that shows me that I am crumbling, I feel quite affronted.

Let me tell you about the last time Nature put me in my place.

Each year since we’ve moved to Florida, Max and I have treated ourselves to a little mini vacation at Disney World at the holiday season. The big highlight of the trip has always been the beautiful, stirring, breathtaking Candlelight Processional at EPCOT. We used to spend two nights at a luxury resort on property within walking distance to EPCOT. That way, we could stay and see the Candlelight Processional one night and the Magic Kingdom Christmas nighttime celebration without me having to worry about driving the exhausting 40 miles home in the dark after a long day. Please, nobody point out to me that this mindset in itself is pretty convincing evidence of my elderliness. At some level, I know that. My brain is just trying to play hide and seek with that fun fact.

During our 2021 trip, we realized that we could no longer justify the absolutely exorbitant cost of this little extravagance. We even talked about cutting out the trip altogether. After living in central Florida for seven years, I thought maybe I could manage to find my way home in the dark without crashing. The sticking point was our evening at Magic Kingdom. I wanted to go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While I was pretty confident that I could make it home safely leaving EPCOT after the first Candlelight Processional show, I was less enthusiastic about driving home at midnight from the Magic Kingdom party. Finally, we decided to split the difference. We would stay one night and would try staying at a different, less costly on property resort.

Day one was wonderful. The “moderate” resort was okay. We could definitely see many reasons why it did not measure up to the hotels in our previous stays, but we could also definitely see why the sacrifices were worth it for the value. We went to Magic Kingdom and had a wonderful day and night. The party was super fun. The place reeked Christmas. We partied until nearly eleven before hopping a bus back to the resort. We were tired, but it was a good, happy kind of tired. Unfortunately, as tired as we were, neither of us slept more than a few hours. It was not the fault of the resort. Nothing was wrong. It is just that we typically do not sleep well away from home, especially if we are sharing the same sleeping area. We probably would not have slept well in the more expensive room either.

I was still okay. I was looking forward to my highlight of the pre-Christmas season- the Candlelight Processional. Normally, we have reservations for a dinner package, which guarantees us a seat at the show and relieves us on standing in the huge line hoping for stand-by seats. This year, we were not able to get a dinner package reservation, so I decided not to stress about the matter. I decided that we would just go about our day and hope for the best. We would arrive at the show location 40 minutes or so before the first show and see if we could get a seat. If not, we could stand outside the amphitheater and enjoy.  I have grown so much. I was sure my life coach would be proud of me.

As the day progressed, Max and I wandered all over the park. We had a great time. We ate a pretty big breakfast before we got to EPCOT, so were not very hungry for lunch. What I was hungry for, though, was gingerbread ice cream in the French pavilion. That was my lunch. About two hours before the first Candlelight Processional of the evening, my body protested the lack of protein and we decided to grab a quick service dinner at the food court in the front portion of the park, then wander back to the amphitheater for the show.  We hiked our way to the food court and ate dinner.

This is when “old” hit me. As we sat at our table at the food court, I realized my body was tired, my muscles ached, and I was sleepy. I began calculating how much more mileage I would have to put in and how many more minutes I would have to remain upright to haul my body back to the amphitheater and watch the show (possibly while remaining standing.) The math didn’t math. We had already logged nearly eight miles. Seeing the show would require at least another mile and a half further than just leaving the park from where we were. What a dilemma!  I had to choose between my absolute my favorite thing at Disney World and punishing my body… apparently beyond its limits because I ultimately chose to go home without seeing the Candlelight Processional. It was the right decision because we were both pretty tired and I still had to drive home without running us off the Florida Turnpike. Still, I did some regrets about my decision. I also had a lot of shame about the decision, too. I called myself some unkind names.

The unkindest name of all? Old.

What experiences have you had that made you realize you were not as young as you used to be? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative,  you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a sparkling new day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Grateful, Thankful, Blessed

Although 2022 was a difficult year, I still have a lot for which to be thankful. Even the very heart-cracking episodes of the past twelve months have generated abundant blessings. I am not advocating that the experiences I encountered in 2022 are for everyone. In fact, I do not think I am even advocating that they are for me.  Make no mistake, change is hard. It is especially hard on this gal’s heart.

I am a paradox tangled in a coverlet of fragile positivity. On some intellectual level, I have always acknowledged that God can use the worst experiences in life to bring about great growth. I have experienced that phenomenon. It is just difficult to have faith in that notion when one is right smack in the middle of the worst experiences. Growth means change and change is hard, especially when you are trying to grow and change while still navigating through the life one has always known. Over the past couple of years, I have massively transformed my outlook on life and on myself. As exciting and triumphant as that feels, it has been a painful process at times. Most times, if I am truly honest. I find myself running towards this new, healthier, more beautiful version of myself while all the time terrified that I am going to trip and break a hip.

I’ve talked about some of the circumstances that have created this crucible of discovery and self-development. The life coaching process I’ve been working through has played a big part. The life coaching is a microcosm of what I mean by a paradox tangled in a coverlet of fragile positivity. The thoughts and feelings that I’ve found inside me during the life coaching process have often been painful- even heart-fracturing. At the same time, I crave them because I have learned the tremendous release, joy, and wholeness they can bring.

The illnesses and death of my brother has been much harder than I would have thought. I miss my brother. I miss the feeling of family I had when he was still in the world, even though we did not often have satisfying communications. I miss my memories and vision of what my past was like.

I have backed off relationships that do not serve me… or anyone else. It has been hard to let connections sever. I have faced guilt and shame and some bruising of my ego (I’m not indispensable to ANYBODY.. who knew?) On the other hand, I feel excitement rise in me when I realize that I have time and energy to invest in other, more excellent relationships. The same has been true of activities. In the past, I have concentrated more on what others needed rather than what I had to give when I said “yes” to a request. I enveloped myself in a lot of thankless, tedious, non-productive busy-ness instead of using the same internal resources to find service that feeds me as well as the recipient.

The biggest change in the past year is how I’m starting to think of myself. I think 2022 was one of the most significant years in my life in terms of learning. This is a powerful statement for me to make and I do hesitate in making it. I do not know that I have completely learned all the things that 2022 has started to teach me, but I can definitely feel them incubating in my psyche. The experience has often been challenging and painful, but I have grown so much, I cannot regret a moment of it.  Here are some of the most important things 2022 has shown me:

  • I learned that two-thirds of American women wear a size 16 or above. I wear a size 16. I am not a freak of nature.
  • I learned that the standard of beauty that we see glorified in our society is not a universal preference- only about a third of people are attracted to a type that we typically picture as traditional beauty.
  • I learned that my needs and even my wants are sometimes more important than other people’s.
  • I learned that, just because someone doesn’t value what I want to give does not mean that what I want to give is without value.
  • I learned that I may be quirky and weird, but for many people, my authentic quirkiness and weirdness make me appealing, rather than undesirable.
  • I leaned that I am the center of only my own universe.
  • I learned that it is possible to change the way I experience and react to life.
  • I learned that I am far stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined.

My wish for 2023 is that these concepts will take root in my soul. I want them to flourish to enrich my life and what I can give the world. I ask you all to pray for that for me. I pray for all of you that 2023 will bring you satisfaction, love, and joy in being the person you were always meant to be.

What did you learn in 2022?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email to terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a enlightening day!

Terri/Dorry 😊